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Review


In 1876, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer helped turn Mark Twain into one of the world’s best-known authors – a book followed up by its sequel centered on Tom’s friend Huckleberry Finn, widely regarded as The Great American Novel. Both stories were, of course, turned into popular musicals. And this spring, 133 years after the novel’s debut, Christian Youth Theater demonstrates why Tom Sawyer: A Musical has such long-lasting, universal appeal.

The story revolves around young Tom Sawyer, a boy who prefers fun with Huck Finn over school, and who is about to prefer schoolmate Becky Thatcher over just about anything. Even dead mice. But his relatively footloose life is about to get threatened when he witnesses a murder by Injun Joe, and only his testimony may save an innocent man from hanging for it.

Cory Creswell is a likeable Tom Sawyer who teams up well with Trevor Davis as Huck Finn, combining for a troublemaking duo skipping school, playing with spiders and snakes, and never knowing their prayers. He does especially well leading the Gratification number as he convinces the other boys in town that painting a fence is great fun. The twosome becomes a great threesome with talented Tyler Tafolla as Joe Harper, the three of them combining naturally for the River Song and Freebootin. All three are complete opposites from the nerdy, brown-nosing Sid, with Dylan Hyde as the little brat who pretty much deserves what he gets. Like when Tom asks Becky if she likes dead mice. She doesn’t, Tom chucks it over his shoulder, Huck catches it and, not wanting to waste it, slips it down the back of Sid’s shirt.

Other strong performances are many in this group. Heather Banks is a delightful Becky Thatcher who easily charms Tom and the audience, and nails the vocals. The versatile Sarah De La Isla is Aunt Polly, nailing her accent and both the humor and maturity of her character as the new guardian of Tom who really has her work cut out for her. Laura Hopkins is diverting as the Widow Douglas who has her own hands full with Huck. Paul Gillcrist gives a terrific performance as the drunken Muff Potter who can be both amusing and frightened. Jonathan White has a great preaching style, Brittany Wolfe is sweet as Polly’s daughter Mary, and Russell Clements is the anti-thesis of sweet as Injun Joe. The ensemble of energetic school kids and old, complaining biddies do nice work, including a dance off against each other at the 4th of July party. Extra kudos to one quick-thinking classmate: after Becky’s apple just barely rolled off the tip of the stage, a girl behind her quickly tossed her own apple onto the stage, allowing Tom to befriend Becky and getting an appreciative laugh from the audience.

The sets are good, including a cool cave set where the climactic scene with Injun Joe takes place, although that scene seems sort of rushed, perhaps to make it less heavy for the younger audience members. Sarah Anderson’s choreography is fun and uplifting. And Director Linda Wolfe has assembled a great group of actors and dancers, while throwing in some nice humorous touches including the catching of Injun Joe’s flung knife in a Bible.

Performs May 15 - 23, 2009

Rob Hopper
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Executive Director
National Youth Arts

~ Cast ~
 

Tom Sawyer: Cory Creswell
Huck Finn: Trevor Davis
Joe Harper: Tyler Tafolla
Aunt Polly: Sarah De La Isla
Becky Thatcher: Heather Banks
Mary: Brittany Wolfe
Widow Douglas: Laura Hopkins
Injun Joe: Russell Clements
Miss Dobbins: Ashlee Bates
Muff Potter: Paul Gillcrist
Sid: Dylan Hyde
Judge Thatcher: Colin Arnold
Mrs. Thatcher: Michelle Sonniksen
Jeff Thatcher: Daniel Helms
Preacher: Jonathan White
Amy Lawrence: Katee Drysdale
Jane Harper: Courtney Wolfe
Susan Hollis: Mary Gillcrist
Ben Rodgers: Ryan Tafolla
Mrs. Harper: Amanda Norman
Mrs. Potter: Taylor Carpenter
Sheriff: Erich Spurgin
Doc Robinson: Shane Waitley

Tom's Gang:
Aaron Creswell
Cory Creswell
Trevor Davis
Daniel Helms
Dylan Hyde
Josh Mumford
Greg Power
Ryan Tafolla
Tyler Tafolla
Kyler Waitley

River Watcher Singers:
Cassandra Ahern
Ekaterina Belous
Joshua Espinoza
Caroline Mehki
Jeremy Power
Christina Seberino
Olivia Tafolla

Liberty Dancers:
Heather Banks
Taryn Carpenter
Danamarie McNicholl-Carter
Talila Cecconi
Brianna Demelo
Katee Drysdale
Mary Gillcrist
Amanda Grant
Melinda Ham
Ashley Jones
Kalene Robbins
Shannon Sonniksen
Brittany Wolfe
Courtney Wolfe

Church Choir:
Collin Arnold
Heather Banks
Ashlee Bates
Taryn Carpenter
Taylor Carpenter
Aaron Creswell
Sarah De La Isla
Katee Drysdale
Daniel Helms
Laura Hopkins
Dylan Hyde
Josh Mumford
Greg Power
Ryan Tafolla
Kyler Waitley
Jon White
Brittany Wolfe
Courtney Wolfe

School Kids:
Cassandra Ahern
Ekaterina Belous
Chad Francis
Katherine Gillcrist
Teresa Gillcrist
Ryan Kaszycki
Carlie Lentz
Caroline Mehki
Jeremy Power
Sarah Robertson
Olivia Tafolla

Country Folk:
Sarah Alessio
Lena Bagnol
Michaela Brown
Hannah Davidson
Kevin Davison
Joshua Espinoza
Ginevra Francesconi
Heather Germon
Brooklynn Johnson
Celeste Magaudda
Sedona Mattia
Miranda Morrison
Makenna Myers
Genevieve Power
Megan Sardina
Christina Seberino
Asher Smith
Lianna Treitler
Peyton Vogel
Shane Waitley

Director:
Linda Wolfe
Musical Director: Tammi Waitley
Choreographer: Sarah Anderson
Sound Design: Dan De La Isla and Joe Davison
Costumers: Marcee Drysdale and Paige Vance-Vogel
Set Coordinator: Glenn Creswell and Rick Varonfakis

   

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